Friday, September 04, 2009

Entering in: fourth bead

Open my heart, that I might live and love more fully and deeply in you -- you who created me, you who redeem me, you who sustain me. Amen.

This is the last of the four beads between the largest -- the centering -- bead and the first of the four medium sized beads which are the cornerstones, as it were, of this prayer bead practice. As I engage with this practice myself, I use each of these beads as another step in preparation for the prayer time to come and, so, I ask that my eyes, my ears, and my hands be opened not just in my life in general but more specifically in this upcoming time of prayer. And now, as I am on the verge of engaging the first of the primary prayer practices, I ask that my heart may be opened "that I might live and love more fully and deeply in you."

Another way to say this might be that I want to live my life more fully conscious of the presence of God, live my life more fully grounded in the awareness of the reality of the divine. One of my favorite spiritual books is Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence was a 17th century lay brother who developed the spiritual practice of living each moment aware of God's presence so that whether he was chanting the psalms in the chapel, in prayer on his knees in his cell, or in the kitchen cutting carrots made no difference to him. I want that kind of life -- aware, always, of being surrounded and suffused by the sacred and holy reality of life. (I would say, of course, that I am surrounded and suffused whether I am aware of it or not, just as I am immersed in the air whether I acknowledge it or not. Yet I want to know about it and appreciate it!)

So, open my heart -- because my eyes, and ears, and hands have already been opened -- so that my living and my loving might be more fully and deeply grounded in this reality. And then I describe this reality in, admittedly, extremely trinitarian terms. Yet rather than, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," I use the terms "creator," "redeemer," and, "sustainer." Let me unpack these:

You who created me -- in the Christian Gospel of John (1:3) it says, "Through [God] all things were made; without [God] nothing was made that has been made." That sounds about right to me since, as I understand it, one way of defining God is as the creative force of the universe.

You who redeem me -- I know that this is traditional language with very specific meaning within the Christian tradition, and the familiarity of it is part of what appeals to me, yet I think of it too as meaning that through my growing relationship with the sacred my life is redeemed from a life which I would otherwise find less meaningful and devoid of that "spark." Being in this relationship redeems my life from an existential loneliness in which I have spent far too much time.

You who sustain me -- And if God is "the ground of being," the "Spirit of Life," than God is that which sustains all things. Just as nothing is created without the creative force being involved, so nothing exists without sustaining power. Is this a tautology? Of course. Does that make it any less true?

So -- Open my heart, that I might live and love more fully and deeply in you -- you who created me, you who redeem me, you who sustain me. Amen.

And this brings us to the end of our preparation. Of course, it isn't like the preparation isn't, itself, a part of the processess; it's not as if we have not been praying up until this point. It's all been prayer. Yet now, with the next bead -- the first of the medium-sized beads and the first of the four primary prayer types -- our prayer journey begins in earnest.

'till Friday.

In Gassho,

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